Billikens boast all-time best population total

(Briana Radici / Design Director)

(Briana Radici / Design Director)

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(Briana Radici / Design Director)

Things always seem crowded crossing Grand Boulevard in the middle of the day, in the library during midterms, or at a respective campus eatery on a swipe night. However, the reason that these places may seem busier than usual  stem from the fact that campus is home to 288 more students than in fall of 2010, with enrollment rising from 13,785 to 14,073 undergraduate and graduate students combined, according to the most recent University census.

The census shows that this fall, 1,642 domestic traditional freshmen are enrolled, an increase from last year by 97 students. There are also 65 international traditional freshmen, which has increased from fall of 2010 by 25 students. In total, the number of both traditional domestic and international freshmen is 1,707, with two of these students being part-time. There has been a drop in enrollment of international students whose second language is English, from 134 in 2010 to 41 in 2011.

In total, the traditional and ESL freshman on campus adds up to 1,748 students. The number of domestic non-traditional students, which includes students enrolled in the College of Philosophy and Letters and the School for Professional Studies, has increased by one this year from seven to eight. There has been an increase of five in total enrollment of freshmen on SLU’s campus in Madrid, Spain, with a total of 87 students. The retention of freshman from 2010 to 2011 is 86 percent, which is a 2 percent increase from the 2009 to 2010 retention. “We are trying to grow enrollment at SLU,” Dean of Admission Jean Marie Gilman said.  “This is the first year we’ve hit a big spike in growth on campus.”

The University is not only becoming bigger, but also brighter. Admissions is looking to increase the academic rigor of the average student at SLU by seeking higher GPAs and ACT scores from applicants, Gilman said.  The average GPA of a traditional freshman in the class of 2015 has increased by .1 from that of the class of 2014. Additionally, the average ACT score has also increased by .1.

The increase in the traditional international students by .9 percent from fall 2010 can be attributed to a number of reasons, including the trip of University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J. to Asia during March of 2011. Biondi visited Beijing, Shanghai and Bangkok on his trip, administering recruitment initiatives and meeeting with current parents and students.  “To have SLU’s highest ranking official, our president, showing how important international students are makes a difference,” Gilman said.

In addition to Biondi’s initiatives, the Office of Admissions is sending counselors on a full travel schedule to other countries to recruit students. Gilman said that the 2012 travel schedule for admissions counselors include trips to  Central America, China, Thailand, London, India, Africa and Latin America.  “We see good enrollment from China and India,” Gilman said.

Freshman international student Matt Chen said he shook Biondi’s hand in Shanghai, China, Chen’s native country. Chen said he came to SLU because “the education here is better and there is more opportunity here.”  He said he is enjoying being a part of the mechanical engineering program.  “I like SLU because of the environment-both the feeling around campus and the air,” Chen said. “Also, I like being able to see small animals like squirrels every day.”

Sophomore international ESL student Pei Ou also likes the environment at SLU, as well as the friendly students.  “The teachers are kind and friendly,” Ou said.  While communication was one of her most difficult transitions to life in America and at SLU, Ou said she has met many different friends,including Americans.  She said that her favorite part about living in St. Louis is the Gateway Arch.

“This year, one of our main priorities is growing geographically,” Gilman said, “We are sending counselors to recruit students from California, Texas and the East Coast,” Gilman said that University admissions is also considering the potential of programs for undergraduate majors  to grow, as the classrooms for some majors are not full at the moment, including majors offered through the John Cook School of Business, Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology and the School of Public Health.“We’ve seen a little bit of a decrease throughout the years in the business school, but growth during the past two,” Gilman said.

Transfer students also contribute to the shift in student population. This year, there are 789 traditional and non-traditional transfer students.  In the fall 2011 enrollment, there are 30 less domestic traditional transfer students with a total of 373, while there are currently five less domestic non-traditional transfer students, with a total of 242. There are also four ESL transfer students, down from fall 2010 by 20.  This year, there are 28 traditional international transfer students, an increase of 10 from last year.

At SLU, transfer students comprise 18 percent of the undergraduate enrollment.  According to Gilman, this is because of new transfer initiatives that have taken place in recent years in an effort to bring more of these students to the University.  Gilman said that the Office of Admissions began to analyze the scholarship process for students two years ago. The University had offered a flat scholarship of $8,000, but recently has increased the scholarship to $10,000 and $12,000, depending on previous GPAs.

After reshaping scholarship opportunities, the University has seen an increase in transfer students in the past two years.  In an effort to reach out to local community colleges, the University developed the “2 + 2” plan, ensuring that a student who completes the first two years of college at a community college will be guaranteed to graduate in four years. Gilman said that so far, the University has partnered with St. Louis Community College and is looking to partner with more community colleges.

According to Gilman, recent trends in Missouri and Illinois see both declining population and high school graduation rates, which may lead to less freshman enrolled at the University from these states. However, more students will be enrolled at SLU as long as high recruitment from community colleges in those states continues.“Students will be going the community college route for economical and other reasons,” Gilman said.

Gilman said she praises the John Cook School of Business and the Parks College of Aviation and Engineering and Technology for their transfer process of credits. “They had their faculty work the curriculum so that transferring from a community college is a flawless process,” Gilman said, “They explain what a student’s last two years at SLU will look like so that they’re guaranteed to graduate.”

According to admissions statistics provided by Gilman, two years ago, 70 percent of transfers came from four year institutions while 30 percent came from community colleges.This year, 55 percent of transfer students came from a four-year institution, leaving the other 45 percent to come from community colleges, which Gilman said is “a dramatic shift.”  Senior Jung Kim said she transferred from Fontbonne University in the middle of her sophomore year.  “I thought SLU would be a better challenge. Status-wise, SLU is pretty high,” Kim said.

Kim said she is glad she transferred because she likes SLU’s atmosphere and the fact that she sees new people every day.  “The professors and academic advisors here really prepare you on your path to graduation,” Kim said.

Enrollment trends from as far back as 2006 show that total enrollment has been steadily increasing every year. “We always ask people’s reasons behind picking SLU, and students come here for a variety of reasons,” Gilman said.  “We hear over and over that SLU is the ‘right fit’ for students. When they come on a tour, sit in a classroom and meet the student body and faculty, they see themselves fitting in and identifying with the students and then want to be here.”